FDA Investigates Potential Link Between Diet, Dog Heart Disease

The U.S. FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, in conjunction with the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network, is investigating several reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dog breeds not typically genetically prone to the disease, including Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Whippets, Shih Tzus, a Bulldog and Miniature Schnauzers, as well as mixed breed dogs.

In each of the cases the dogs were being fed certain pet foods that listed potatoes, or multiple legumes such as peas, lentils, other “pulses” (seeds of legumes), and their protein, starch and fiber derivatives as main ingredients. High levels of legumes or potatoes appear to be more common in diets labeled as “grain-free,” but it is not yet known how these ingredients are linked to cases of DCM. Changes in diet, especially for dogs with DCM, should be made in consultation with a licensed veterinarian.

Early reports from the veterinary cardiology community indicate the dogs consistently ate these foods as their primary source of nutrition for time periods ranging from months to years. In the reports the FDA has received, some of the dogs showed signs of heart disease, including decreased energy, cough, difficulty breathing and episodes of collapse. Canine DCM is a disease of a dog’s heart muscle and results in an enlarged heart. As the heart and its chambers become dilated, it becomes harder for the heart to pump, and heart valves may leak, leading to a buildup of fluids in the chest and abdomen. DCM often results in congestive heart failure.

The underlying cause of canine DCM is not truly known, but is thought to have a genetic component. Breeds that are typically more frequently affected by DCM include large and giant breeds such as Great Danes, Boxers, Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, Saint Bernards and Doberman Pinschers. DCM is less common in small and medium breed dogs, except among American and English Cocker Spaniels.

The FDA continues to work with board certified veterinary cardiologists and veterinary nutritionists to better understand the clinical presentation of the affected dogs. The agency has also been in contact with pet food manufacturers to discuss these reports and to help further the investigation. The FDA encourages pet owners and veterinary professionals to report cases of DCM in dogs suspected of having a link to diet by using the electronic Safety Reporting Portal or calling their state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators.

See the full FDA press release HERE.